SC urged to prosecute Aquino over DAP, PDAF
A feud within the Cojuangco side of the Aquino family once again emerged on Wednesday after a group that included former Tarlac governor Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco filed an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino 3rd with the Supreme Court (SC).
Cojuangco is the wife of the President’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. who in recent months had been vocal in criticizing the government. Mrs. Cojuangco was in the senatorial slate of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance in the 2013 elections.
Aside from Cojuangco, petitioners included former Manila councilor Grego Belgica, Bishop Reuben Abante, Quintin San Diego, Rev. Jose Gonzales and lawyer Glenn Chong.
In their 45-page petition for mandamus with preliminary mandatory injunction, they asked the High Court to order Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to investigate and file a verified complaint for impeachment against Aquino and other government officials in connection with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), infamously known as the pork barrel.
The DAP and the PDAF were declared unconstitutional by the SC.
The petitioners also asked the tribunal to direct Morales and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to prosecute the authors, proponents and implementors of DAP, as well as the legislators and officials who misused the PDAF.
Among the officials in the cross hairs of the group were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., among others.
“Considering that time is of the essence and there is great danger or risk that those involved would try to obstruct [the]investigation or prosecution, being in power, not to mention the need to put a stop to the interminable dilly-dallying and unwarranted excuses or dereliction of functions and duties of the concerned prosecutorial organs of the government, there is an imperious need for the Honorable Court to issue a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction directing them to act accordingly,” the petition read.
The DAP was exposed by Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada as the source of bribe money given to all senators and congressmen for the prosecution and conviction of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The petitioners insisted that the SC has already struck down the “pork barrel” system and “directed all prosecutorial organs of the government, to within the bounds of reasonable dispatch, investigate and accordingly prosecute all government officials and/or private individuals for possible criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement/utilization of all funds under the pork barrel system.”
The petitioners said two years after the SC ruling on the DAP and the PDAF, Morales and de Lima failed to launch an investigation of erring officials.
They added that their calls for the Ombudsman to conduct a probe fell on deaf ears.
“There exist special or extraordinary reasons [that]warrant the immediate intervention of the Honorable Court considering that what is ultimately at stake in the case at bar is the political, social and even economic life of the nation, not to mention the overarching significance or transcendental public importance of the issue/s foisted as well as the gravity of the crimes committed,” the petition read.
Despite being an impeachable officer, Aquino can still be investigated by the Ombudsman for “any serious misconduct in office… for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment.”
Among the criminal charges that can be filed against the President and the erring officials are usurpation of legislative functions, technical malversation, bribery and corruption of public officers (for augmenting the PDAFs of senator-judges before, during and after the Corona impeachment), violations of Republic Act 3019 and impeachment in the case of the President.
The petitioners argued that criminal prosecution must be initiated, along with the administrative and forfeiture cases.
“Independent of criminal prosecution, the said public officials must also be proceeded against for their administrative or civil liabilities, and suspended or removed from office, if warranted,” they said.